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Rod, Gun & Game: It’s turkey time, and walleye time too

Forrest Fisher writes a weekly outdoor column for The Sun.
If you start out for work early every morning and live in the suburbs or rural areas of Western New York, than you already know that lovesick tom’s are starting to become vocal right about daybreak.

It’s perfect timing for camo-dressed hunters sporting face paint or masks to hide their facial outline and contrast to return these calls with their best hen imitation cluck and purr. It’s an exciting time to be in the woods.

The official New York State spring turkey season will open on Monday, May 1 at 30 minutes before sunrise and run through noon each day for the entire month of May. The late spring warmth has kept forest foliage to a bare minimum, with only buds beginning to show in the last few days.

That provides the advantage to the hunter who will be able to easily spot treed birds once the sunbeams begin to cast laser-like rays of daylight through the dark woods.

The chilly recent mornings have kept the bothersome gnats, black flies, no see-ums and mosquitoes in their hibernated state, and this good “sitting weather” should hold through opener on Monday and the first week of the season. When the creepy critters do emerge, clip on and power up one of the greatest anti-bug inventions ever made, the Thermacell device.

It is about the size of a large candy bar that clips onto your garment, runs on a tiny battery with a tiny propane reservoir inside. It emits the scent of the beautiful chrysanthemum flower used to make “allethrin” — the official name of the actual repellent, that most flying bug critters simply want no part of in a 15 foot square area from wherever you are sitting. It’s worth the $20, because it really works.

Stalking through the dark to your favorite sitting spot for turkey, be sure to protect your eyes by either wearing safety glasses or your prescription lenses. More hunters have poked their eyes walking into a dark woods and meeting that “lone hemlock branch” than you might imagine — don’t ask how I know. Of course, it will be just three days after the full moon, so this year there should be quite a bit of “walking light” during pre-sunrise hours this opener.

Most hunters set their hen decoy about 20 to 30 yards from a stealth location, from where you can hide any movement you might make using your turkey calls. Some hunters use a simple camo-cloth with 24-inch posts stuck into the ground to simply keep their movements hidden where they plan to sit.

Having had the pleasure to hunt with experienced turkey calling experts like Tom Ryion of Alden Rod and Gun Club, I have learned new things each year. One of the best items of advice ever was to “not make any sounds or calls at all, until the first crow caws,” so says master caller Ryion, who has been doing this for multiple decades.

Adds Ryion, “the crows run the woods and you will usually see that no other birds sound off until the first crow sounds off, then the morning air is open for business.” The humble Ryion taught me and many others to begin with one loud cluck, like if you were the “boss” hen. Of course, you’re not, but the boss hen doesn’t know who you are and doesn’t know about you, she is upset that another hen in her woods thinks she is “boss.”

This means trouble for that other hen (you). You cluck once, she will return a cluck. Wait a moment, then you return two clucks. You see that the most aggressive early season hens will even try to up you one for a long time. After several returns, stop. She will keep calling to you, don’t answer. She is upset now, and curious.

Wherever she is, if the woods are quiet, you’ll hear her fly down and with her, the remaining harem of hens that look to this boss hen for their leadership, they will also follow. They all follow without making a sound. Soon, they spot your decoys. That’s it, the boos hen picks up her walking pace and it’s fight time! Ever see two female turkeys fight? It’s not pretty! The boss hen usually starts to whale on the decoy. Right after that, she finishes up and soon after, here come the Tom’s, sounding off in the near distance with full gobble cackles.

This is the point where you no longer need to call unless the tom’s change direction, but they should see the decoys if the hens have moved on. Ready your gun and get your cleaning tools. Fresh wild turkey is sweet, dark meat, and worth the early time to get into the woods.

The daily limit is one bird, the season limit is two birds. After the shot, be sure to tag your bird immediately and don’t forget to phone in your harvest to NYS DECALS at 1-866-4263-778 within 48 hours, following the instructions on the tag. It should be a good year for turkeys this year, winter saw many broods of birds spotted all around WNY.

Walleye season opens May 4

Perhaps the one fishing season everyone who loves to consume fish cannot wait for each year that begins shortly after the Easter fish dinner season (thank goodness), is the NYS walleye season.

As always, no changes on the opening date, still the first Saturday in May, with a six fish per day daily bag and 15 inch minimum, as a general rule for many waters in NYS, but there are exceptions to minimum length and daily bag for several waters, so be sure to check the syllabus for the waterway of your choice.

Lake Erie waters are still too cold for trolling at this time – be better in one or two weeks, but Chautauqua Lake, Silver Lake, Honeoye Lake, Cuba Lake and other inland lakes are all prime for walleye fishing action during early May.

Also on May 4, the NYS fishing season for pickerel, northern pike and tiger musky also opens. Good luck to all.

Sportsmen flea market

On Saturday, April 27, from 8:00 a.m. through 2:00 p.m., the Bison City Rod & Gun Club will host their popular annual Hunting and Fishing Flea Market. Visitors may find outboard motors, rods, reels, lures, tackle, anchors, chain saws, all kinds of outdoor supplies and just about anything else, available for purchase. Located at 511 Ohio Street, Bison City offers the event for the benefit of all area sportsmen. Call chairman Dick Hurd at 725-8805 for more information.

Gun control measures off the Senate table

The U.S. Senate last week failed to pass new federal gun-control legislation supported by President Obama. In response, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) pulled S-649, the underlying comprehensive gun-control package from Senate consideration for the time being, but pledged to bring it back at a later date.

Failing to win the filibuster-proof 60 vote margins were the Manchin-Toomey amendment to expand background checks, a new “assault weapon ban” championed by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds sponsored by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) issued a statement noting that discussion on guns and public safety in Washington and across the country is not over, pledging to continue work toward real solutions to improve current law, fix the NICS instant background check system so that all appropriate criminal and adjudicated mental health records are entered into the system, and provide law enforcement with the tools they need to stem illegal firearms trafficking.

Learn-to-fish event April 28

The weekend forecast looks like it may get everyone outdoors and families with children should want to start off this spring with an educational fun fishing experience for everyone.

This Sunday afternoon, April 28, at the Bison City Rod & Gun Club, located at 511 Ohio Street in Buffalo, the 9th Annual Jimmy Griffin Memorial “Teach-Me-To-Fish” seminar event will begin at 2 p.m. The event is totally free and open to all youth and their parents.

Children receive a registration ticket upon arrival, then they will view a brief slide show introduction on fishing in the Western New York area, learn about our clean waters, catch and release, and then visit seven friendly “learning stations.” including a visit aboard the 31-foot Erie County Sheriff’s boat moored at the Bison City docks for the day.

Participants will learn how to cast a line, tie a fishing knot, bait a hook, learn how to fish, and how to rig for fishing with artificial plastic baits. Kids will also feed the 10,000 steelhead fingerlings being raised in special floating fish pens at the facility located right on the rejuvenated Buffalo River.

The pens allow the young steelhead to “scent imprint” to local waters so fish recognize Buffalo River as their home waterway system and return here to spawn in future years. The fish are hand-fed high protein food for four to six weeks and then released under the watchful eyes of the NYS-DEC during the first weeks of May.

In addition, there will be free Sahlen’s hot dog lunch complete with potato chips, cupcakes, ice cream, water and pop for kids and parents in attendance. If you ever wanted to learn more about fishing WNY, grab this free seminar and courtesy lunch.

Call 652-2256 or 597-4081 for more information. No pre-registration is required, and the event will run rain or shine.

Outdoors Calendar

April 25: 3D Archery, Collins Conservation, evening shoots, 4:30 pm – dusk, open to public, call 909-3441 for more information.

April 25: Erie County Federation of Sportsmen Clubs, monthly meeting at West Falls Conservation, 55 Bridge St., West Falls, 7 pm start, open to public, free dinner, outdoor issues coverage, call 440-6995 for more information.

April 27: Annual Hunting & Fishing Flea Market, no guns, Bison City Rod & Gun, 511 Ohio St., Buffalo, 8 am-2 pm, call Dick Hurd at 725-8805.

April 27/28: King of the Lake Spring Salmon Fishing Tournament, Port Dalhousie, Ontario, Port Pier Marina, Lake Ontario, five/day for two days, e-mail to

April 28: 9th Annual Jimmy Griffin “Teach-Me-To-Fish” for kids/parents, Bison City Rod & Gun, 511 Ohio St., 2 – 4 pm, register upon arrival, includes lunch & rod/reel prizes, all free, call 652-2256 for more information.

April 28: NYS Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame, Induction dinner, open to WNY public, Rusty Rail, 3231 Seneca Turnpike, Canastota, call Scott Faulkner at 315-829-3588 or

May 1: Start of 2013 NYS Spring Turkey Hunting Season, half-hour before sunrise until noon.

May 4: Start of 2013 NYS walleye, northern pike, pickerel and Lake Erie trophy bass fishing for the season.

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